Moving Back Home

You may or may not remember that I had told you about my little episode with a Chinese hairdresser in Manacor, earlier this year. Yesterday, I noticed that bang next door to that Chinese salon, another hairdresser has opened up shop. The new one is Moroccan. It seems to me that Moroccans as well as Chinese are the two nationalities that have actively increased their migration to Mallorca over the last few years. A the same time, it would appear that a large number of immigrants from other countries, and especially those with a background in South America, are in the process of returning to their country of origin.

A recently published study undertaken by the INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, National Statistics Institute) predicts a negative growth of the population in Spain, with a number of minus 34,193 being given for 2011. The decrease appears to be due to a reduced number of births as well as to more people leaving the country than are migrating to Spain from elsewhere. For Mallorca, a figure of 6,080 is given for an increase of residents in the Balearic islands in 2011, a number far smaller than over the last few years. It must all be down to La Crisis, otra vez.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 1st, 2011. The time was 11:37:25.

Moving Back Home

Sleeping Rough

More people than ever, certainly more than over the last 35 years since Franco died, are sleeping it rough on the streets of Palma. Some have even made the Palma cemetery their temporary home, or so one can read in some of Mallorca’s daily press. La Crisis.

The Frailes of the Convent dels Caputxins in Palma’s Carrer Bastió d’en Sanoguera are handing out their Pa de Sant Antoni (a Boccadillo and a piece of Ensaïmada) every morning during the week (not on Sundays). Last year, there were about 150 visitors taking advantage of this charitable feeding of the destitute but, this year the average number of hungry takers has gone up to 400. La Crisis.

The Metropolitan Police in Palma reports an ever-increasing number of thefts and robberies at the Cementerio Municipal de Palma. Thieves and thugs strip graves and tombs of metal crosses and other valuable adornments that can be sold to a scrap metal dealer for hard cash. The culprits may not be the same homeless people sleeping it rough at the very same cemetery but, one never knows. Again, La Crisis.

People are saying that it will get worse. Stay tuned.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 27, 2011. The time was 16:20:58.

Sleeping Rough

The Convent de Sant Agustí

Sometimes it can take quite a while to get the photo opportunity you want. I had been trying to get into the Convent de Sant Agustí in Felanitx for well over a year. I wanted to have access to the Claustre that I had heard about.

A few days ago my wish was finally granted. I was given a tour of the convent and its church, which was declared a Bien de Interés Cultural (a property of cultural heritage status) in 2007. The monastery and the church were built in 1673 by monks of the Order of Saint Augustine. In 1821, the frailes (monks) were expelled from the convent, however, for reasons unbeknown to me. In 1823, once the Constitution was abolished, the monks returned to the convent. In 1835, the expropriation was confirmed and made definitive. in 1844, the local Government auctioned the church property for 139,000 Reales (a Real was a silver coin). Finally, in 1901, the Catholic Church managed to buy the convent back for 125 Duros (1 Duro had the value of 5 Pesetas).

Today, there is no Claustre and perhaps there never was one, in the shape that I had expected it to be in, e. g. a cloister on the ground floor. Instead, what one calls a Claustre here is in this case a gallery open to one side on the first floor (see photo top) from where doors lead off into the rooms or monks’ cells.

I was allowed to enter the organist’s tier. I am not sure who the organ was built by but, I believe the instrument to be from the 17th century. When I heard the organ played some time ago, it had a clean sound but, if there was money, it could well do with a proper clean-up and some general restoration.

I also had a chance to climb up the Campanario (bell tower, see photo centre and bottom) from where I could wave over to the domineering bell tower of Sant Miquel, the Felanitx parish church. I was told that no-one had climbed up to the church bells in twenty or thirty years, other than the electricians wiring the bells’ mechanism to the electric current and the foundry people when one of the bells had to be exchanged.

On Sundays, a church service is held in the church of Sant Agustí in Castellano, the only one to be held in that idiom anywhere in Felanitx. Last Sunday, a collection was held for donations in aid of urgent structural work at the convent. Sadly, not an awful lot of money was taken, it would appear, and the convent and its organ will have to wait for better economic climates. Ah, la Crisis.

The photos were taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: October 1st, 2011. The time was 10:20:16, 10:50:05 and 11:10:09, respectively.

The Convent de Sant Agustí

A Record Figure of 3,403,098 Passenger Movements

PMI Palma International airport is going through a good year in 2011. Passenger figures between January and July 2011 were up some 8.4 % on the previous year with a total of 12,683,541 air passenger movements, according to AENA, the Spanish airport body. That in itself is not an outstanding number but, 3,403,098 passengers were counted for the month of July alone, making this a best ever monthly figure in the 50 plus years of PMI airport history, representing an increase of 11.8 % over the same month of the previous year. And the month of August 2011 is expected to better the record figure. Everybody is pleased except for the people in Egypt and other North African destinations.

Hotel occupancy was recorded for July 2011 by the Federación Empresarial Hotelera de Mallorca (Mallorcan Hotel Federation) at 93 %, a figure not recorded for the previous four years. There are some good bits about Mallorca, even in the time of crash and crisis.

The photo was taken at PMI airport, Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 14th, 2011. The time was 00:26:18.

A Record Figure of 3,403,098 Passenger Movements

The Ca n’Oleza Patio

The courtyard of Ca n’Oleza, dating from the end of the 17th century, is one of the best preserved patios (courtyards) in Palma and one of its best known. The imposing building was constructed for Jaume Ballester d’Oleza i Ballester (1625-1699) who came from one of the oldest and most noble families in Mallorca. One of his ancestors, Jaime de Oleza, had come here with King Jaume I, the conquistador, in 1229. The Oleza family was – and is – closely related by blood and by marriage to other families of nobility here in Mallorca, such as the Sureda, Vivot, Berga, and Togores, as well as the Condes de Ayamans. It’s a small world.

The historic Oleza courtyard is unique in Palma for its wide, low arches, the loggia, the ionic columns with their pronounced convex curve, and the wrought-iron railings. The Oleza style probably served as an inspiration for the design of other courtyards in Palma carried out during the 18th century, for instance Can Morell (Casal Solleric).

Ca n’Oleza was sold a few years ago to one of the property tycoons here on the island, one who also owned the local football club. A substantial down-payment was made at the notario meeting, but subsequent contractual payments were defaulted. The buyer has since gone into receivership and a court order was obtained to annul the incomplete transaction. The submission was granted and the property has reverted back into the hands of the vendors. I do not know if Ca n’Oleza is back on the market now, but, I doubt it given La Crisis and all that.

On the subject of patio tours on the occasion of the upcoming Festa de Corpus Cristi, I have to inform you that the annual visits have been cancelled this year. Cosa política, I was told, and something to do with the recent municipal elections. You can see the splendid patio of Ca n’Oleza through the iron gate but, entry into this courtyard or any other one is not permitted this year, I am afraid. What a shame.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 17th, 2011. The time was 14:12:38.

The Ca n’Oleza Patio

Revisiting Santa Catalina

Last night, I had the dubious privilege of attending a Junta Comunitaria (assembly of the community of owners) in Palma’s Santa Catalina district. No, I do not own any property in Santa Catalina, nor anywhere else in Palma, thank you for the asking. But, the meeting gave me a good enough excuse to have another stroll down memory lane.

A year ago I commented on the barrio of Santa Catalina, saying that this used to be an area of fishermen and flour mills but, lately had acquired a bohemian and alternative feel to it, with its picturesque streets being lined with restaurants and bars popular with Spanish and foreign yuppies. Well, twelve months on one cannot overlook the fact that this old suburb of Palma and perhaps the whole of the Balearic capital city is changing beyond recognition. Carrer Fàbrica has been converted into a lifeless pedestrian area, the century-old Mar i Terra theatre has undergone a long and costly restoration without offering as much as a scheduled programming of any sort, armies of traffic wardens dish out parking tickets by the dozen and new restaurants and shops everywhere in Santa Catalina aim to dispel the myth of La Crisis having taken hold of Palma and, indeed, of Mallorca as a whole, never mind of Spain. The district’s inhabitants of old are subtly or, as the case may be, rather arrogantly being elbowed out of their life-long residences. Mammon rules with a vengeance.

Believe me that not all of it is a pretty sight, attractive as it may appear on the surface.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 28th, 2011. The time was 18:55:32.

Revisiting Santa Catalina

The New World Order

I have you know that I had a haircut last Friday. That rather gives away my religious inclination; a steadfast observer of Sabbath would not have his hair cut on a day of worship. No, I did not observe anything last Friday other than my eager readiness to fulfil my journalistic duty to you, my readers. In pursuit of my ambition I risked my vanity and had a Chinese hair cut, or rather, had my hair cut at a Chinese Peluquero (hairdresser). As I am an Hombre (male), the charge for services rendered was a mere 6 €, a fraction of what I normally would pay when I go to my regular Barbero in Palma (21 €).

The inundation of Mallorca by Chinese people is noticeable. It started in the Sixties with the first arrival of Chinese restaurants in Palma. Then it was the Chinese takeaways. Then Chinese supermarkets. The first Chinese investors we read about were interested in setting up a factory in Montuïri for the production of lightbulbs. That never took off as far as I know, but still. Then there was an influx of Chinese bazaars selling everything that was produced in China which was a lot. A few years ago, I started to see Chinese waiters in local Mallorcan bars and now we have Chinese shoe shops galore, and Chinese hairdressers cutting hair for 6 € for male customers and 7 € or 8 € for females, depending on the length of hair. There are even Chinese builders. Here in Felanitx, rumours have it that albaniles from China work for as little as 3 € per hour here in Mallorca when José, Paco, Rafael and Toni would not get out of bed for less than 12 € and often 15 €.

And there are tourists from China as well. According to the Instituto de Estudios Turísticos there were more than 100,000 tourists coming to Spain from China last year. I do not know how many of that number came to Mallorca but, the Balearic president has been to China recently trying to woo Chinese honeymooners to come to our island for their boda de miel. I am not sure that any just marrieds have already arrived all the way from China but the trend is there. There is a new world order out there and China is in the forefront.

The photo was taken in Manacor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 28th, 2011. The time was 12:25:54.

The New World Order